New crops in the garden add variety and challenge.

In an effort to benefit both our neighbors and ourselves, part of our income is made by selling produce at local farmers markets. Every year my husband, Tim, and I try to grow at least one new crop that we have not grown in the past. This year, we decided on not one, but three! Aside from the traditional alliums and leafy greens that my husband has become known for—garlic, onions, kale, baby salad mix, chard—we try to find niches that need to be filled, so as not to compete with other people who also supplement their incomes by selling produce from their gardens. After our fall harvest, we take stock of how successful our new crops were and decide if they are worth planting again.

An area of the market that we noticed was lacking a couple of years back was ginger. Ginger is a tropical plant, but can be grown during the warmer months in our area. It also has many medicinal properties and culinary applications that our neighbors utilize. We had grown ginger the previous two years, but wanted to improve our growing technique to have a better yield, so we got serious about it this year. Turmeric is another rhizome that people had asked us about when they realized that it is possible to grow ginger here. Turmeric is in the ginger family, also has many medicinal properties and culinary uses, and no one else here grows it. We decided it was a worthwhile endeavor to dedicate a small space in our garden to this crop. It was a success and well received at the farmers market!

We also grew okra and Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash this year. We had varying levels of success with each of them. The okra did not yield enough to sell, so I used it in dishes for our own meals. My husband wanted to grow the Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash because I REALLY like to eat sweet potatoes and squash, and the variety is from my home state of Missouri. I didn’t know much about the variety initially, but he handed me the packet of seeds and asked me to start a few.

After the starts made it into our garden, it was up for debate about who would be eating the squash—me or the squash bugs. I vigilantly squished bugs and eggs every day for weeks. In the end, I gave up and left the plants to fend for themselves. I was so surprised when I looked at them one day and saw that, not only were there squash on the plants, but there were acorn squash that were cream colored! My grandpa’s acorn squash were always solid green. I thought maybe the nibbling of the squash bugs had done something to the plants. I was happy to discover, after investigating the variety more thoroughly, that the squash were fine.

With the threat of cold weather, we recently brought them all inside. We haven’t tasted them yet, but we did end up with a few to eat and a few to sell. We will definitely be growing this variety in our gardening future. I call that success…and triumph over the squash bugs!